Features

Train Dead

Brighton StationStories from the half-life…continued

London Ad Agency partner and account director and long-time West Hill resident Andrew Osborne-Smythe reports from the front line of commuting and explains how he deals with the trials and tribulations of the 7:15 daily commute to London.

This is coming hot off the iPad! As I write I’m sitting in the penultimate carriage, third row from the front, on the inside seat, left hand side, on the 7:15 to Victoria. It’s actually 7:14 and I’ve already answered the time-critical client emails plus had time to bang out the agenda for the 11am PARP Project meeting to the dozy creative team – who I don’t expect will be reading it anyway.

I should be becalmed by the Rachmaninov (Symphony no.2 op.27) that is now gently piping through the headset, but not this morning. No. The manic typer is sitting behind me. This must happen at least once a fortnight; I think she is doing it deliberately to irritate me. Why such a glorious piece of music cannot just be enjoyed for what it is without some neurotic witch on steroids pounding the keyboard so hard my seat is vibrating. IT’S LIKE THE TRAIN HAS ALREADY STARTED.

Of course, art is purely subjective, and we cannot all enjoy the same high quality things that I do and most people (particularly back in row 6) apparently enjoy, subjecting themselves to moronic cacophonies of talentless drivel, blips and electronic squeaks produced by computer programmes, which themselves must be programmed by morons. Through some ill turn of fate, the manic typer is reproducing almost exactly the same cacophonous output as that emerging from Row 6 – only louder!

Anyway, I need to hold my nerve right now, as the carriage will fill by Haywards Heath and I’m currently in the ‘unlucky dip’ phase of the journey; learning exactly which freak or madman is going to take the spare seat next to me. As usual I have The Telegraph on the spare seat; which is normally enough to put off anyone from Brighton and also serves as a useful signal to the more refined, quiet, smaller types at Haywards Heath who know there is, at least, one safe seat on this train.

Hold it! We’re just stopping at Preston Park and I can see on the platform that Hinge and Bracket have already started their public shouting conversation. NO! NOT NEAR ME YOU MINDLESS BORES! These are the two twits who go on and on all journeys, every day; reliving last night’s TV blow by blow. I can hear them now…

Hinge: “Did you see Jamie on The Apprentice make the genius move to put the chocolate flakes on the ice cream?”
Bracket: “OMG and Andrea just didn’t have a clue – went with the curry powder!”
Hinge: “Sugar called it right in the end; although you have to say Colin got away with it over the cones.”
Bracket: “Exactly – I saw that…”

OF COURSE YOU SAW IT – THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GAWP AT REALITY TV ALL NIGHT ON YOUR 32” FLAT SCREEN.

Phew! I think ‘Manic Typer’ may have put them off. Yes! They’re moving into the centre; good riddance at least for this morning. Meanwhile I have my right arm, very carefully placed exactly halfway across the armrest. That’s right – I’m allowing for whomever choses to sit next to me their exact portion of the armrest for themselves, should they opt to use it. It goes without saying that whoever does take the seat this morning HAS ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT TO TOUCH MY ARM. Note how considerate I am in all this mayhem.

As I’ve said before, if you take the correct attitude to commuting, adopt the right philosophy, it’s actually quite a pleasurable experience. However, there is absolutely zero chance of any pleasure when ‘Manic Typer’ is banging away and rattling your seat; I can’t stand it any more. I’m going to have a word.

What a cheek! She told me to change my seat if I don’t like it. Can you believe it? Change from this position after effectively establishing common law rights? Who do you I think I am – some kind of shock absorber for your electronic diatribes? A human buffer in the digital torture highway? My blood is boiling, now she’s upped the ante. Where is the justice in this world?

Help! Haywards Heath! Oh dear – alongside the platform, he looks like the first to get on. A builder type, huge, eating a large pastie, dirty work clothes, boots, big bag, The Sun. Surely he should be on an earlier train? Lord, please not him. Not next to me! That’s it. I’m feeling murderous now. Not only has that monster sat down next to me with his pastie breath and cheap, foul-smelling aftershave, I have flakes of oily pastry gliding on me like a dust storm. My iPad has grease spots. This is outrageous. Beyond the pale. His huge, fat arm has not only transgressed the natural border of the armrest half-way point but has actually veered into my seat zone. This is disastrous; I’m having to twist my body toward the window, almost embedded in the other armrest and pull my right arm over, gripping my left knee just to avoid contact with this thug. I could have 50 minutes of this. Where is the EU now? The Human Rights Bill? What about my rights? What about civility rights? The Magna Carta? Martin Luther King? The Chartists? Was it all in vain? What good was it all if I can’t even sit straight on the 7:15 and have space on the armrest? What’s this all about? Is Mr Pastie-Guzzler-for-Breakfast-Piggy-Bull-Nosed-Tatoo-Armed-Giant actually trying to make me contort myself into a life of disability? What about the quality of my life? How am I going to play squash now? What about the cricket club?

Just as I thought my twisted organs would be permanently re-arranged, the pastie-breath monster got off at Gatwick and now I am into a different kind of ‘unlucky dip’ – people who board at Gatwick. It’s been a tumultuous struggle already this morning and only half an hour has passed; now what fate beholds me? Once more unto the breach…

Well, you couldn’t make it up. A group of Italian students have packed the carriage corridor and one of them has chosen to sit on the seat, next to me, facing into her compatriots; with backpack retained on back and veering back and forth across the armrest space in time with the insistent chirping and raucous Italian- style guffaws and shrieks. What are my options now?

All I can do is fight fire with fire. Yes, I’m bringing my suitcase down from the rack for a bit of territorial warfare. This is the equivalent of going over the top; I have a copy of the PARP Project briefing in my case, 345 pages, heavy, ring-bound that is providing some real ballast. Sadly, I’m going to have to sign off now as I need all my resources to fully engage in the battle of the bags and rightly take back my side of the armrest from this foreign invader.

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